In our ever-changing and hectic world, we could all use a little inner peace. While it would be great to be the person who finally achieves world peace, it’s probably better to start with your own serenity. But how do you find it?
Inner peace has many facets that all contribute to an overall sense of serenity. These can be divided into four categories: higher power, harmony, positivity, and lifestyle. These categories encompass smaller factors like a sense of purpose, acceptance, mindfulness, happiness, a sense of humor, and a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, finding and practicing these things can also help you find inner peace.
In this article, I’ll take a closer look at the different facets of inner peace and, more importantly, how to find it.
What is inner peace?
“Inner peace” sounds vaguely spiritual, like something you should seek in a temple or through prayer. While those things may be true to some people, there are other aspects to inner peace.
Like many psychological concepts, inner peace doesn’t have one specific definition. Rather, there are many different definitions for different purposes: a religious counselor might define it one way, while a psychological researcher has a completely different take on the concept.
To make sure that we’re all on the same page before we get into the nitty-gritty of finding inner peace, I’m going to be using Dale R. Floody’s approach to inner peace. Floody is an American professor of psychology, who developed the Viterbo Serenity Inventory. The inventory is based on multidisciplinary literature, including approaches from positive psychology, 12-Step Programs, nursing, Buddhism, Native American, and mindfulness.
According to Floody’s chapter in the 2013 book Personal Peacefulness, the inventory encompasses four components of inner peace:
- Higher power
Let’s take a quick look at each of these.
1. Higher power
Higher power involves a sense of spirituality. While it can be related to organized religion, it doesn’t have to be. It can also mean a sense of connectedness to others and compassion, and can involve some sort of reflection or contemplation.
Furthermore, higher power involves a sense of meaning and purpose in life. In his book Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl argues that people can find meaning in almost anything (including suffering), and in doing so, they can find humanity and inner peace.
Harmony involves having a place of peace or an inner haven to which you can retreat when faced with life’s normal stresses, adversities, and emotional upheavals.
Positivity is all about happiness and subjective well-being. Positive emotions also play a role, although it’s important to realize that “negative” emotions, like sadness, anger and fear, are normal and inseparable parts of life as well.
A sense of humor, gratitude and positive coping mechanisms also contribute towards a general sense of positivity.
Certain lifestyle changes are integral in achieving inner peace. These include living for today, pursuing a simple life, appreciating nature, taking care of your health, having positive social networks, contributing to society or volunteering.
Dale R. Floody also posits that servant leadership is an important lifestyle choice. Servant leaders are first and foremost interested in serving others as a conscious choice, and become leaders as a result.
Inner peace and happiness
The Viterbo Serenity Inventory implies that as a part of positivity, happiness is essential for inner peace. There is a certain logic to it, as having a higher level of subjective well-being will probably help you make peace-promoting lifestyle changes and practice forgiveness, acceptance and self-compassion.
However, the causal relationship isn’t entirely clear. The things that make up inner peace, from positive relationships to self-compassion, are also the things that make us happier and promote subjective well-being.
A 2012 study implies that a sense of inner peace is a dimension of durable and lasting happiness, although the authors are hesitant to make concrete statements about causality.
In short, it isn’t clear what came first - the chicken or the egg. Or, in fact, which concept is the chicken and which is the egg in this scenario. Nevertheless, happiness and inner peace seem to be related in one way or another, most likely in a symbiotic relationship, where finding one will help to boost the other.
5 ways to find inner peace
We all have days when no amount of deep breaths and positive affirmations will calm us down, and we could benefit from some inner peace both in the short and long run. And while it may be hard to define, inner peace doesn’t have to be hard to find.
Here are 5 tips on how to find inner peace.
1. Find your why
If you’ve ever felt lost or restless in your life, career or relationships, you know how good it feels when you finally find your direction or purpose. Finding your why and a sense of purpose is an essential step on your road to inner peace.
There is no one way to find your why. It may involve taking a closer look at your job, hobbies, relationships or any other areas of your life. You can also find out by asking why you chose that particular career or became friends with those people.
2. Practice mindfulness
For many people, mindfulness is synonymous with meditation, and meditation is synonymous with peace. Of course, mindfulness isn’t just about meditation - but it is helpful in finding inner peace.
The results of a 2013 randomized controlled trial - the gold standard of research in psychological and medical interventions - show that an 8-week mindfulness training program increased the participants’ inner peace. The training involved mindfulness exercises like body scan, sitting and walking meditations and yoga, as well as group discussions.
So if meditation isn’t your thing, try adopting the mindful worldview of being present here and now without passing judgment on people, situations, experiences and emotions.
3. Accept that you can’t control everything
You’re probably familiar with the serenity prayer in some variation:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
While initially a Christian prayer, this passage is widespread in secular contexts as well, and for a good reason. In one sentence, it encapsulates the importance of knowing what you can and can’t control.
One of the easiest ways to lose your cool is to try to control something you can’t, be it the weather or other people. Once you’ve accepted your lack of control over them, you can either move on or realize that you can influence some things. Sure, you can’t control the weather, but you can grab an umbrella if it’s raining. Or while you can’t control another person’s actions, you can be open about your own expectations.
4. Take care of yourself
It’s easier to find peace if you’re thriving, not just surviving. Making sure that you are eating well, drinking water, getting enough rest, sleep and physical activity are the most basic building blocks of well-being.
This doesn’t mean that you have to be the picture of perfect health - we all indulge in junk food and lose sleep sometimes.
(Case in point: Estonia is in the middle of a heatwave right now and I live in an old house; peaceful and uninterrupted sleep is a luxury reserved for people with AC.)
Just like “negative” emotions, some “unhealthiness” is a part of life.
But making sure that you’re well-rested and well-fed will make it so much easier to practice mindfulness and focus on finding your purpose. Because when you’re hungry and tired, your only purpose is to eat and sleep.
Life is absurd and unpredictable and sometimes, the best way to find peace is to laugh at it. Don’t be afraid to joke about the hard things in life or giggle at silly memes with your friends.
Laughing about something doesn’t mean that you’re turning a blind eye to the very real issues or consequences of life. But approaching life with a sense of humor will make it easier to deal with these issues.
Recently, I went to the ballet for the first time in ages. For the ballet company, it was their first performance after lockdown, and among other ballet classics, they performed a COVID restriction compliant “Dance of the Little Swans”, with the four dancers dutifully holding the recommended 2-meter distance.
It was a sweet reminder that you can find some fun, peace and levity even during the second year of a global pandemic.
Get Our FREE Mental Self-Care Cheat Sheet
Thrive under stress and crush your goals with these 10 instant tips for your mental health.
Inner peace is a multidisciplinary and multifaceted phenomenon that is closely related to happiness, so it’s no wonder that many people are interested in finding it, especially in our hectic and ever-changing world. And the good news is that there are plenty of tools that can help you find it, from having a sense of purpose and practicing mindfulness to accepting the absurdities of life with a sense of humor.
What do you think? Did I miss something that has helped you find inner peace recently? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!